Hands on with the Garmin nuLink 1695
The Garmin nüLink! 1695 is Garmin’s second connected navigator, updating the nuvi 1690 with trafficTrends (historical road speed database) and myTrends, which allows the device to learn your preferred routes. In addition, the 1695 offers a 5” screen, whereas the nuvi 1690 sports a 4.3” screen.
The first thing I noticed about the 1695 was its size. This isn’t a super-thin 3700 series model. When you combine a 5” screen with a cellular modem, you get some bulk. Here’s how it compares to other models:
So it may not be the thickest of recent models (barely), but it sure is the heaviest. While it didn’t take long for me to get used to it, the 1695 may initially feel pretty clunky for anybody who’s used a 3700 series model or has a recent smartphone.
Having said that, I’ll add that the hardware quality is pretty good. I’ve gotten cell reception / nuLink services in places only Verizon seems to reach, though I have seen dead zones too.
Garmin nuLink! connected services
So what does that weight get you? A bevy of connected services including Google Local search, traffic, weather, fuel prices and more. Service is free for the first year and then $60/year ($5 per month). The video below shows some of the nuLink services.
Here are some details on the most useful nuLink services:
Google Local search
As you can see from the images below, you get a Google tab and a Garmin tab, allowing you to easily compare the results. In this search for Sushi, Google is the clear winner. And for reasons that still mystify me, Google searches are often far faster than getting Garmin results, which actually reside on the unit.
No real surprises here. This is the standard, ad-supported NAVTEQ traffic you find on all T-model nuvis. The ads are pretty low key, and tend to pop up when you are sitting still (see the second screenshot below for an example). One thing to note – since reception is via the cellular modem, you’ll get coverage in fringe areas where FM traffic signals don’t reach. Here are a couple of screen shots:
This is another nice feature, and you can add cities at will. An add-on allows you to view live weather radar (discussed below under “nuLink Store”).
The gas prices screen can be customized for fuel type (unleaded, midgrade, premium, diesel). Unfortunately, you cannot search along route, etc. – just from your current location.
Other nuLink services
Other connected services under the Where To menu include include White Pages phone listings, movie times and local events. Under the Tools menu, you’ll find Flight status and Ciao, a social network / location sharing app.
Garmin has built an app store into nuLink, letting you pony up for some advanced features. Currently, there are two available. One is safety camera alerts; the other is advanced weather. A 30 day trial is available for the latter. These features are not available on the previous generation nuvi 1690.
The weather app provides severe weather alerts, as shown below.
Tap the raindrop icon above to get an animated live weather radar map. This is a very nice feature indeed. Too bad it costs extra.
Navigating with the Garmin nuLink 1695
The 1695 updates the 1690, adding trafficTrends and myTrends.
TrafficTrends is Garmin’s historic road speed database, which should result in improved routing in areas with routine traffic problems. And indeed, it does seem to work. On trafficTrends enabled devices, including the 1695, I’ve seen smarter routing and more use of local short cuts / alternative routes.
MyTrends is a bit more complicated. It does a couple of things. One, it figures out routine travel patters for you (think home to work and work to home). Hop in your car and the destination is pre-selected. More importantly IMHO, is the fact that it can learn your preferred routes. Ignore the 1695’s directions for a few days, take your favorite shortcut, and it should start routing you that way.
Here’s some details on myTrends from Garmin’s support pages:
The myTrends feature is available on select Garmin products. When you save your regular destinations in your “Favorites,” your nuvi will, over time, begin to figure out where you’re going even without your telling it. Your nuvi will provide a predicted route which will display in the information bar at the top of the map screen. myTrends provides time of arrival and relevant traffic information in the information bar.
Please note: myTrends is a feature that does not work out of the box when you first begin using your device. In order to effectively use the myTrends feature you must meet the following requirements before myTrends will display arrival and relevant traffic information:
- Your frequent destinations must be marked as favorites in your device, i.e. Home, Work, etc.
- A regular pattern of driving habits must be established before myTrends will display on your device:
- Daily regular pattern of driving takes at least three days of usage
- Weekly regular pattern of driving such as a different destination on different days would take 2-3 weeks of regular usage
Example of myTrends:
Press the information bar at the top of the map screen in order to display alternative routes if one is available. Here you can press Go! to activate a route to your myTrends destination:
Once you press Go! the unit will begin providing turn by turn directions to your destination.
After you have an established pattern of driving habits your device will display a myTrend event within a two hour window. As an example if you leave work for home at 5pm each day, the myTrend event will display on your device as early as 4pm and as late at 6pm.
One side effect of trafficTrends is increased route calculation time. There’s simply more data to crunch. A test route for a three hour drive, from my office to Charlotte, NC, took the 1695 a full 15 seconds to calculate. A nuvi 1300 did it in 3.5 seconds. Nevertheless, this did not seem to cause problems in local routing. If I missed a turn, it recalculated nearly as fast as the 1300, taking less than a second of additional time.
More hardware notes
Just a couple of odds & ends here; the nuLink 1695 uses a micro-USB connection instead of the mini-USB found on most previous generation nuvis. One nice feature is the powered mount, meaning you don’t have to fumble with that micro-USB connection each time you use the unit.
Features from previous generation nuvis
In addition to the above, you’ll also find:
- Customizable data fields – Tap the left data field to see the options; these are different depending upon whether or not you are navigating. Only the left data field can be changed. Tapping the right data field allows you to report a safety camera location.
- Additional data fields (shown below) – Switch the data fields to the right side of the screen and get two additional fields which can be customized; you can do this by going to Tools > Settings > Navigation > Automobile > Map data layout > More data.
- Lane Assist and Junction View – These features are shown (respectively) in the two images below. Lane Assist coverage seems to have expanded significantly in the past year or so. Junction View coverage remains very limited. And no, I wasn’t going 20 MPH on the Interstate; the junction view screenshot was taken in demo mode!
- Speed limit display and warning – In the image below you can see the posted speed limit and the fact that your current speed field turns red when exceeding the posted limit. In my testing, Garmin has had greater speed limit coverage for secondary roads than TomTom, though they also tend to be less accurate as to the posted speed limit.
- ecoRoute – This feature adds a “less fuel” option to your routing choices and gives you fuel and mileage reports, estimated fuel cost for trips, and even a “driving challenge” to improve your fuel efficiency.
- CityXplorer map compatibility – These add-on maps offer advanced pedestrian routing options including mass transit.
- Trip log – The trip log displays a thin blue line showing where you’ve gone (screenshot below). This can be enabled, and the trip log cleared, by going to Tools > Settings > Navigation > Automobile > Trip Log. You can also access archived trip logs for a record of your travels.
Garmin nuLink 1695 pros
- Connected services including Google Local search, traffic, gas prices and weather
- No fee for nuLink services for first year
- 5” screen
- Good cellular modem reception
- Improved traffic reception for fringe coverage areas
- Live weather radar available as add on
- Historical road speed database (trafficTrends) results in improved routing
- Learns your preferred routes (myTrends)
- Powered mount
- Lane assist
- More customization options than early generation nuvis
- Speed limit display and speeding warning
Garmin nuLink 16095 cons
- nuLink servcies cost $60 per year after first year
- Some nuLink services cost extra
- trafficTrends results in increased route calculation times
- Junction View coverage very limited
- Cannot customize speeding warning (e.g., for 10 MPH over limit)
Conclusion and recommendation
The nuLink 1695 is an excellent navigator. I highly recommend it for people who spend a lot of time on the road, or who don’t have a smartphone. It’s worth it for Google Local search alone. Folks who rely on traffic coverage but live in fringe reception areas may also want to consider it. Beyond these groups, I’m not sure what the market is. trafficTrends and myTrends are nice features, but they are found on the 2xxx and 3xxx series nuvis, which may appeal to a wider audience.
More Garmin nuLink! 1695 reviews
- Consumer-authored Garmin nuLink 1695 reviews have been posted at Amazon
- A very detailed Garmin nuLink 1695 review has been posted at GPs review
I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…
Other Garmin nuLink! 1695 resources
- The Garmin nuLink! 1695 owners manual
- Want to see how the 1695 stacks up against other models? Check out this Garmin auto GPS comparison tool or my own Garmin nuvi comparison chart
- There is a dedicated Garmin nuvi message forum at GpsPasSion
- And another nuvi forum at GPS Review
- Five tips for nuvi newbies
- The official Garmin nuLink 1695 web page
Compare prices on the Garmin nuLink! 1695 at these merchants:
- Check the current Garmin nüLink! 1695 price at Amazon
- Get a great deal on the Garmin nuLink 1695 at Abt Electronics
- Find the Garmin nuLink! 1695 Large-Screen Bluetooth GPS System w/ Connected Services at TigerGPS